Has Resident Evil Changed Too Much?
Updated: Sep 15
With so many changes in the Resident Evil games, can it still be considered part of the same series?
With it’s upcoming release in May, Resident Evil 8 or Resident Evil Village, whichever you prefer, is a pretty hot topic in the gaming world right now. Whether you’re a lifelong diehard fan to the series or adolescents raging with hormones over the sight of a sexy trio of witches dressed in black, or the well-endowed 8’ tall female antagonist, chances are you’re talking about it (Resident Evil 8). The question I have for Capcom and fans alike though: is it still Resident Evil (RE)?
“...adolescents raging with hormones over the sight of a sexy trio of witches dressed in black..."
This is but one man's humble opinion, one who’s been around since the very beginning of Resident Evil. I won’t touch base on every RE entry, but I would like to mention a few. Let’s rewind Father Time back to 1996. Resident Evil is known to be the creation of the ‘Survivor Horror’ game genre. Though, this isn’t entirely true as horror games existed prior to its creation; it definitely pathed the way for future games such as Silent Hill or even more modern games like Dead Space.
How Did We Get Here?
Resident Evil was a huge success in the horror game scene. Designed to take advantage of the PlayStation’s technological capabilities its pre-rendered backgrounds allowed for a much more highly detailed experience. In addition, the classical ‘fixed’ camera angles only intensified the utter sense of fear and claustrophobia. As you enter a room the camera isolates your character through narrow hallways. In the distance you hear the squishing and sloshing sounds of an irregular gait of zombie(s) lurking about... However, you can’t see this threat due to the camera’s view- one of the main reasons RE was so terrifying.
“Resident Evil has strayed so far from this and Capcom has been struggling with an identity crisis for some time now."
How many were lurking about? Do I have enough ammunition to combat this threat? Is the door behind me my only escape route? Questions like these would flood into players heads when first playing. Add to this a very limited number of health items, weapons, and ammunition to the equation and you have yourself a true survivor horror experience. This is where the problem lies, in my opinion. Resident Evil has strayed so far from this and Capcom has been struggling with an identity crisis for some time now.
We could mention the original RE 2, RE3, Code Veronica and more, but let’s fast forward a bit now to RE4. Resident Evil 4 is where the series truly began to derail from what players knew about the series. The biggest change notable, of course, was over-the-shoulder camera angle. No longer were we hesitant to move around corners as we could now cheat the system. By positioning our character at the edge of said corner, the camera angle gave us full view of what was ahead, allowing us to elude danger! Fear had been eliminated entirely.
Not only that, but running low on ammo was removed completely along with the rationing of health items. As players killed enemies they routinely drop items replenishing their inventory. In addition we are met with a new currency system which allows players to buy weapons, upgrades, ammo, health, and more. No longer are we sleuthing about to find these items to help increase our odds of surviving- not when they are readily available for purchase. Why would we waste our time?
From Horror To Hollywood
Resident Evil 4 was like playing a Hollywood action game packed with quick time events, unnecessary explosions and forgettable characters *ahem* Michael Bay... This to me is when RE was no longer RE. Now, before we move on I would like to mention just three years prior to RE4 release, Capcom released an entire remake of the original Resident Evil. To this day, in my opinion, the RE remake for GameCube holds up. With the traditional pre-rendered backgrounds, graphical upgrades, fixed cameras, limited resources and even tank-controls the REmake was a true ode to the series. Yes, I said tank-controls. I was born in it, molded by it *labored Bane breathing*.
“Resident Evil 4 was like playing a Hollywood action game, packed with quick time events, unnecessary explosions, and forgettable characters."
Where was I? Oh right, RE4 action stuff! When talking Hollywood action, one cannot simply fail to mention RE5. Resident Evil 5 takes all of what RE4 was and intensified it tenfold. With what seemed like Michael Bay at the helm, explosions were queued left and right; it was chocked-full of quick time events and the sense of horror was gone from the series. Sure, you had ‘monsters’, but when you have a roid-rage induced Chris Redfield punching boulders... who needs to worry? In RE5, players are also continuously receiving items from dead enemies, given currency to spend on items, and also receive points for killing enemies.
Another note, one I forgot to mention in RE4, was you could no longer back track. This was exceedingly noticeable in RE5 as the game was broken up into chapters. Once you complete a chapter you can no longer return to that area unless you replay it. Capcom had successfully transformed a once king among the survivor-horror series into a now arcade Hollywood-action shooter! The only resemblance of its former shell was puzzle-solving. Should I even mention RE6? I mean I just typed it so that counts. Right? Ok. *sigh*…here we go…
Simply speaking, Resident Evil 6 was Capcom panicking and having zero direction of what they wanted to do with the series. I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to return to its roots when I first played it. When I was playing as Leon, going through the campus, I thought to myself, “All right, this is pretty spooky and dark!” Oh, boy was I sadly mistaken. After roaming through the campus you’re just thrown into action scene after action scene. It was quite literally, mindless action without substance. I shutter thinking about what’s happened to the game series I once adored so much! Excuse me for digressing.
Back To Our Roots
Fast forward and the year is 2019. Wow! Capcom you have totally redeemed yourself! Well, at least I thought they had (yes, I skipped RE7, but I'll touch on it in a minute). With the remake of Resident Evil 2 utilizing their new RE Engine I was floored by how it turned out. Sure, they changed a few things, making minor tweaks to keep it fresh for both veterans to the series and newcomers, but this was a solid remake- much like the original.
I honestly didn’t even mind its third-person perspective. I imagine it was to appeal to newer audiences. However, referencing the original remake even with fixed cameras and tank controls, the game was well-received, making it one of the most solid entries of the series. It goes to show that fixed cameras, even at a time when third-person gameplay was all-the-rage, could still work! If I’m speaking honestly, I would’ve loved to have had the original camera scheme, but they were still able to capture the original fear and sense of danger I desperately missed. See I’m open to change!
Great Game...Bad Name?
Now, on to Resident Evil 7. Though, I still don’t believe it’s a true RE title; it is however a wonderfully executed survivor horror game. Capcom was finally on the right path returning to survivor horror roots! With the new RE engine, Capcom recaptured all that we missed about the series with new features like non game-pausing item menus. This engine allowed for near photorealistic environments, beautiful lighting with a horror-like appeal, and those classic claustrophobic corridors. As it stands, it is as close as we’ve gotten to RE when it comes to new entries which further the main story. So why don’t I consider it part of the Resident Evil series?
To me this game is nothing more than Outlast on steroids with remnants from the past thrown in, like mentions of Umbrella and Chris Redfield. Outlast, for those who don’t know, was an indie first-person survivor horror game in which players explored an insane asylum as a reporter. You were unable to defend yourself as you held no weapons and could only hide from the few enemies you encountered while being hunted by said enemies. That’s what Resident Evil 7 is to me with the exception of combat.
“This game is nothing more than Outlast on steroids with remnants from the past thrown in..."
Resident Evil 7 is a game where you’re stuck in a mansion on a plantation while being chased by the same enemies (the Baker family) while throwing in monsters made of mold. Obviously, it goes a bit deeper than that, but I’m not looking to spoil anything. As mentioned the game does indeed return to survivor horror roots. Players are thrown back in to exploration of an isolated environment, utilize resource management, and solve puzzles.
The first person is kind of what does it in for me. I get what they are trying to accomplish with immersion and I really do appreciate their efforts. It just doesn’t work for me at least not in a Resident Evil sense. This brings me to the most recent and highly anticipated new entry, Van Helsing…I mean, Resident Evil Village. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, but this is what Village seems like to me. I feel like Capcom has lost direction all over again! I can’t judge this game yet as it hasn’t released, but from what we can tell, it’s closer to a Van Helsing flick than any Resident Evil game I know.
From Zombies to Vampires?
From the short trailers and recently released demo ‘Maiden’, we know that the main antagonists are comprised of vampires and/or witches. I mean, I just don’t understand Capcom anymore. On top of this we’re speculating from what’s been revealed that werewolves are also included in this topsy-turvy world set in a gothic European village and castle. All the ingredients are there; in addition to Van Helsing, we can now make a Twilight sequel!
Be honest with yourselves. When you think of Resident Evil/ Biohazard (its Japanese counterpart) do you think of vampires, witches, and werewolves? Perhaps zombies, tyrants, or mutant-like beings such as Hunters and Lickers instead come to mind. For me, this is what rings the bell. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I’m not open to the idea of new enemies. With that being said, in my humblest opinion, Resident Evil, or at least the latest entries as we know, should be given a new intellectual property (IP) name. Resident Evil is no more.
Look, I’ve been around since the beginning of Resident Evil and have played nearly every installment to the series and seen firsthand the evolution it’s taken. I’m sure many of you have as well. It’s just not the same anymore as it has come so far from what we knew and loved about the series. I love how they have gone back to the survivor roots, but that’s where the resemblances end. Resident Evil as we know it is no more and needs a new IP.